Hatbox Theatre Promotes Local Art At the Mall

Concord's only black box theatre can be found at the Steeplegate Mall




On the southeast side of the Steeplegate Mall, a Chico’s offers colorful women’s clothes. Encore Shoes stocks discounted Timberlands. And directly between them, a new venture called Hatbox offers up original plays at Concord’s only black box theatre.

Hatbox Theatre opened for business on April 1 with “2 Across” (a one-act comedy about love on a commuter train), and its first months will feature a slate of intimate, diverse programming from local artists.

As founder (and professional magician) Andrew Pinard (pictured here) explains, the theatre fills a crucial need in the Concord theatre scene. “Concord used to have a 104-seat theatre for avant-garde productions, original pieces and the kinds of community-produced shows that couldn’t be produced in a larger space,” he says. Since that closed, local artists have been forced to abandon small projects or face the economic challenge of producing an experimental piece — or even an old-time magic show — in a theatre like the 1300-seat Capitol Center for the Arts. The 92-seat Hatbox solves that problem.

“Here, the audience is breathing the same air as the performers,” Pinard says. “People are only three or four feet from the action. And performances are more intense because of that proximity. What’s funny is hilarious. What’s scary is terrifying.”

The theatre’s unusual location also gives a much-needed boost to Steeplegate Mall. The takeover of the former Coldwater Creek space keeps a storefront from lying empty and brings a new crop of visitors to the shopping center. With scheduled events ranging from kids’ puppet shows to podcast taping nights, Hatbox’s productions promise an influx of visitors to the mall — of the audience and actor variety — that’s more varied than the typical slate of shoppers.

Performers and production companies looking to stage a show at the Hatbox can attend a pitch night at the theatre on May 10. The first full Hatbox season launches in September, and they’re looking to fill it locally. “We want to build a community,” Pinard says, “both for audiences and for artists.”

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